Health Equity

Children Running

What is health equity?

Health is shaped by the community conditions in which we live, learn, work, play and worship. These conditions include:

Good Schools
A thriving and inclusive economy
Safe and supportive neighborhoods
Strong social connections
Quality healthcare
Sustainable, healthy environments
Health equity is when everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their optimal health and well-being.

In LA County, we continue to see stark differences in health outcomes across LA County, largely based on geography (place) and race and ethnicity. Depending on where we live and the color of our skin, we are more or less likely to have access to resources and opportunities that allow us to grow healthy and thrive. These differences are a result of past and present policies and practices influenced by prejudice, discrimination and systemic racism. The language we speak, how much income we have, who we fall in love with (sexual orientation), how we express our gender, our biological sex, our physical and mental abilities, and our religion are also factors that affect our health due to similarly unfair policies and practices.

Such inequities in health outcomes are unjust, unfair and avoidable. Resources and strategies must be put in place to make sure that everyone has what they need to be healthy and well.

What is the difference between equality and equity?

The words “equality” and “equity” sound similar but mean different things. Equality means treating everyone the same. Equity aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and has the same needs. Equity means giving everyone what they need to thrive.

The picture below from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation illustrates how equality can lead to unfair results.

Giving everyone the same bike only benefits the woman, while the other cyclists have trouble riding the bike or cannot ride the bike at all. Equity is giving people what they need – a bigger bike, smaller bike, or handcycle – to successfully bike ride.